SAN DIEGO -- The freshman football team at Patrick Henry High School has enjoyed a resurgence, winning four of its first five games, in part because of a whole new coaching staff -- and they're all women.
"You never know what somebody's going to think," said head coach Eboni Chambers. "It's like oh, I'm getting coached by a bunch of girls, like what are the other teams going to think of it, but once we get the whistles, once they see we know what we're doing, they pretty much know we mean business."
The first-time head coach took on the challenge of teaching 30 freshman boys the game of football and she's done it with the help of her all-female coaching staff.
"I love it," Chambers said. "These are some of my closest friends, these are my teammates. We actually play football together so it's not like I just got a bunch of women together and said hey let's go coach football. They're probably some of the most knowledgable people that I know."
"The guys are very intuitive, they're respectful," said defensive coordinator Mercedes Tyler. "They respect the knowledge that we're bringing to the table and they're genuinely taking every critique, every new information like sponges. I love it."
Just like the other three coaches, Tyler plays for the San Diego Surge, a professional womens tackle football team.
"Being a woman football player, you don't really start out at five or six years old," said Chambers. "We're starting out as young adults so we come into this brand new environment not really sure of what it's going to be like. Same experience for a freshman, just starting high school. Maybe they've been playing basketball or baseball their entire lives and then they want to try something new. So we can relate to them in terms of coming in on that very fundamental level."
"Here the guys have not said one thing about us being female coaches," said Tyler. "They've respected every step of the game, every coaching critique and have never used our gender against us."
Though football brings this team together, Chambers recognizes that connecting with these young men serves as part of the equation to success. As a parent of two young teens, her motherly intuition has served well.
"They're teenage boys, they're going to go through their growing pains, they're going to have their attitudes or frustrations or their off days and if you understand it from that perspective you just find new ways to reach out to them," Chambers said. "I think that's the greatest thing about being a woman and a coach is that we're always going to find ways to connect with the guys and say, 'hey, how are you feeling today, what's going on' and making sure they're in the right mind space in order to tackle this sport."
And this team seems to be tackling all challenges without any problem.